- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

18 September 2017; Anchorage, Alaska.

After embarking the pilot at the Homer pilot station the ms Amsterdam sailed up Captain Cook Inlet to arrive at the Anchorage dock around 07.30 hrs. Anchorage does not have a real passenger terminal but more of a modified cargo shed which is understandable as the dock is extensively used by cargo ships during the off season.  As Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and a gateway to the central part of the State thus there is a large amount of commercial traffic going on.  It benefits from a big train station (where the trains we use from Seward are terminating) and container ships call on a regular basis. Going by the names on the containers, Matson, which is better known for their shuttle service to Hawaii, has quite an important presence there.

When getting to Hawaii by ship was the only way to go. White ships and Hula girls.

Matson used to be a big Ocean Liner company as well, again predominantly servicing the Hawaiian Islands, before the air planes took over. It built some beautiful ships and many an American dreamed before the 1960’s about a Honeymoon to Hawaii; and sailing on a beautiful white Ocean Liner was a major part of the experience.  White beaches are not exclusive to Hawaii but the white ships of Matson were. But as with many passenger liner companies, Matson could not make the change to cruising when the airplane arrived but they still have the cargo side of the operation, which seems to be doing well as I see their containers in many American ports on the west coast.

The main challenge while being docked in Anchorage is the tide. I mentioned that we already have challenges in ports as Juneau and Ketchikan but Anchorage is one step up from that. If there was a port which could do with a cruise ship pontoon dock, then it would be Anchorage. Due to the narrowing of the Captain Cook Inlet, the water is pushed up and that can give cause to some extreme tides. Also today we had a good one, being 1.4 feet under normal at 13.00 hrs. and then rising to almost 32 feet by 19.00 hrs. That is a variation of 33 Feet between low and high tide.  And that means fussing around with the gangway again during the day to make sure that our guests could get ashore and back without having to climb to steep a ramp. Even more important today as it rained until mid afternoon making everything rather wet and damp. Luckily there was no wind, so even with temperatures barely coming above 50oF / 9o Celsius it was not that cold.

Anchorage, Cook Inlet, Alaska Tides.
Mon 09/18/17 12:34PM 2.5 feet  Low Tide
Mon 09/18/17 1:02PM -1.39 feet  Low Tide
Mon 09/18/17 6:56PM 31.51 feet  High Tide
Mon 09/18/17 8:07PM   Moonset
Mon 09/18/17 8:10PM   Sunset
Tue 09/19/17 1:25AM 1.1 feet  Low Tide


As the port is mainly a cargo port, it is not allowed to walk on the dock but there is a continuous shuttle service to the downtown mall. I have now been a few times to Anchorage and it is basically laid out as any other American town with the difference that it is a fairly young town so there are very few monuments and old buildings to be found. But it has a nice out of town shopping mall, Dimond Center (pronounced Diamond) and I was able to obtain a Television Flat screen for the Bo ‘sun store.  So by tomorrow the Bo ‘sun store will be enriched with a 65 inch screen for all the training’s the sailors have to go through nowadays.

Anchorage as seen from a HAL ship on a sunny day in 2015. The town is about 10 minutes away by shuttle.

The ms Amsterdam sailed from Anchorage at 22.00 hrs. catching the last of the ebbing tide while going down the Inlet again. By 10.00 hrs. tomorrow morning we should be docked in Homer which is a totally different place from Anchorage. Also the weather should be different. Same temperatures as today, also no wind, but more important, it should be sunny.


  1. Welcome back Captain right on time I been checking for you the past few days.

  2. Kim Michael and Ann Rolls

    September 19, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Oh Captain, your mention of the Matson Liners (Lurline – Matsonia – Mariposa and Monterey)brought back many memories of growing up in San Francisco and going down to the Embarcadero to participate in sail away festivities as friends departed on their cruises. One point of interest that you may enjoy is looking up a fellow by the name of Garland Rotch. (Rotches very significant name in the maritime world. He was my uncle – married to my mother’s sister. His story is one that captivates me from shipping out as a 14 year old, working his way up to a master’s license and losing a ship during a hurricane off the coast of Cuba and spending time aboard a raft with no food and little water to be rescued after a week or so. He also designed and built the 110 foot sailing yacht Zaca for Templeton Crocker (the banking Crockers) that was later owned by Errol Flynn and now is in Mallorca Spain having been restored to her glory (sails with the tall ships on occasion). Garland Rotch then worked his way into management with the old U.S. Mail Lines in Buenos Aires (where my mother went to boarding school) and later with Dollar Steamship (San Francisco) with the old President Liners which then became the American President Lines that we know today. He is a legend in our family. Maybe you will enjoy his story as well. My best to you all at HAL.

    • Thank you for reading my blog and bringing this to my attention. I have books about Matson and Dollar & APL in my collection so it will
      be interesting to look at it from that background.
      I do not know much about sailing yachts, but if what he designed was bought by those sort of well known people it must have been something quite special.

      Thank you for sharing and best regards

      Capt. Albert

  3. G. E. "Robbie" Robinson

    September 20, 2017 at 1:52 am

    We’ve taken the 14-day Anchorage cruise three times and enjoyed all of them. We’ll be on the Amsterdam in Dec for the 15-day cruise from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale.

  4. Thanks Captain. Very informative. We’re on the Zaandam round trip ex Seattle 13 August 2018.

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